The pool of licensed substitute teachers is limited and it leaves school administrators scrambling to find qualified individuals to fill in when a regular instructor is absent.
“There are not enough substitutes, and what we’re asking teachers to do is cover their colleagues’ classes during their prep times,” Mueller said. “It is really a detriment both to teacher and to student when we do not have a substitute teacher.”
The shortage is attributed to a combination of degree requirements, an unpredictable work schedule and limited-to-no benefits. Currently, an individual must have a four-year-degree to receive a short-call substitute teacher license.
The proposal would expand eligibility to allow individuals with a two-year degree or professional certificate to qualify for a license, if they also have five years of work experience and pass a background check. It would limit each assignment to no more than 15 consecutive school days.
Mark Raymond, executive director of human resources at Austin Public Schools, said this would allow the district access to a wider pool of qualified instructors and help address the shortage.
“There are very few four-year-college-degree people that are currently unemployed and willing to come into the school system to substitute,” he said. “But I can tell you … I have excluded an entire population of people that are wonderfully qualified, speak multiple languages, build relationships and represent our community extremely well. But, because they don’t have a four-year college degree, we’re closing the door on them and their opportunity to actually be a part of the educational process.”
Raymond and Mueller said that given the evolving role of a substitute teacher, it makes sense to expand the eligibility. With technology being a mainstay in classrooms and instruction, regular instructors are able to continue delivering lessons and resources even in their absence.
“There are so many options for our teachers to create lessons, provide lessons, provide activities for their students without really missing a beat,” Mueller said. “With that being said, it’s important for us to be able to have a person in the classroom to make sure that students are still working.”